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Human Rights Center

General Information

We advance human rights by conducting research-driven, participatory advocacy; educating future practitioners; and fostering inclusive and reflective dialogue and learning that promotes innovation and deepens impact.

Inspired by our Catholic Marianist roots, we work through sustainable partnerships with human rights practitioners and justice organizations in Ohio, the United States and around the world.

A diverse community developing transformational and sustainable social practices that address systemic injustice and advance peace, dignity and human rights.

  • Making the education-research-advocacy nexus central to all our practice — We integrate projects that promote formal and experiential learning from applied research on the practice of participatory transformational advocacy.
  • Students are at the center of our theory of change — We amplify and build new multidisciplinary educational opportunities, advance student participation in applied research, and ensure that students receive basic human rights formation at UD.
  • Action research for change — We promote research that is action-oriented, community-led, and directed to support transformational advocacy with evidence and insights, but also by strategically learning from all we do.
  • Root our work in genuine, horizontal and sustainable partnerships — This allows us to mobilize power, tools, knowledge, and information from a range of fields for the human rights community.
  • Intersectional, feminist, anti-racist and decolonial approaches — We actively seek to identify and transform oppressive practices or structures present in the context, including our own projects, structures and initiatives.

  1. Generational renewal
    Students and alumni contribute to human rights change around the world, and assume leading and supporting roles within human rights struggles across civil society, government, business, science, art or other fields.
  2. Partnership-building across global divides that alters power dynamics
    Partner organizations-based locally and globally build solidarity and contribute to critique and self-reflection on privilege and practice within the human rights community.
  3. Innovation and application of transformational advocacy methods
    Practitioners and organizations in the human rights ecosystem are utilizing tools, methods, and insights (including those of HRC) from a range of fields to improve, innovate and adapt advocacy practices.

View our full strategic visioning document here
We believe human rights are constantly being shaped by the individual and collective efforts of many people. Through action, conversation, and reflection, human rights are realized in daily life.

Grounded in universal, global norms, standards and agendas, the social practice of human rights approach complements traditional perspectives that situate human rights in formal institutions, or in the actions of experts, lawyers, and professional advocates. Our work focuses on discourses, dialogues and cultures to understand how human rights are protected, spread, experienced and given meaning through the practices of diverse communities

Since 1997, we have held global conferences on emerging human rights and humanitarian issues. These events not only facilitate dialogue, they are making a direct impact on human rights issues.

After we created the first undergraduate human rights studies program in the nation in 1998, our 1999 conference, “Education for Action,” fostered dialogue with other universities who then established their own programs.

In 2000, the Human Rights Committee at the University of Dayton established the Romero Human Rights Award. The first recipient was Juan Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture for his work with the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights.

The 2001 conference, “A Question of Conscience”, led directly to the publication of a book: Children’s Human Rights.

The 2003 conference, “Bring Durban to Dayton” focused on racism and xenophobia. The result was the creation of the Welcome Dayton Plan - the area’s immigrant-friendly city initiative.

The 2008 Campaign to Ban Torture: American Voices for American Values, in partnership with The Center for Victims of Torture, led to University of Dayton President Daniel J. Curran becoming the first Catholic university president to sign the petition calling for an executive order to ban torture. In 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13491 — Ensuring Lawful Interrogations.

The 2009 conference, “Trafficking is Slavery”, led to the New Abolitionist Movement on campus, a student organization actively combating human trafficking and raising awareness through community presentations, lobbying efforts and victim assistance.

In 2010, we hosted a meeting of the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking. This led to the creation of Abolition Ohio - a dynamic, regional anti-trafficking coalition that championed the passage of a bill making trafficking a crime in Ohio. The bill was signed into law in December 2010.

In 2013, we hosted the inaugural Social Practice of Human Rights Conference that focused on the dramatic changes impacting the global human rights movement, the emergence of dynamic new NGOs in the global south that are resetting the human rights agenda, the importance of aligning human rights advocacy with popular movements, and the impact of U.S. policies on human dignity and rights at home and around the world.

In 2013, Dr. Daniel J. Curran, 18th president of University of Dayton, announced the university’s commitment to establish a human rights center.

Human Rights Center 

Abolition Ohio 

Human Rights Studies Program

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